Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football position preview: The receivers and tight ends who can replace Hakeem Butler's production

Cyclones need a go-to guy on third down

Iowa State tight end Chase Allen talks with the press during football media day Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in Ames. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)
Iowa State tight end Chase Allen talks with the press during football media day Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in Ames. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)

AMES — When it’s third-and-6, where does Iowa State go with the football?

That’s the question head coach Matt Campbell and receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase want answered during fall camp.

Last year it was Hakeem Butler. The year before it was Allen Lazard.

“Hopefully we can answer that question sooner rather than later, and hopefully we can answer it more names than one,” Scheelhaase said.

Iowa State returns two proven receivers in senior Deshaunte Jones and redshirt sophomore Tarique Milton. Last year, both played the M position, which is essentially the slot receiver.

They combined 783 yards and five touchdowns. Milton is moving outside this season to play the X and Jones will still play the M.

But the Cyclones still need to figure out who else will step up.

Iowa State brought in La’Michael Pettway, a 6-foot-2 graduate transfer from Arkansas. Pettway was Arkansas’ leading receiver last season with 499 yards and four touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Joe Scates has also turned heads during fall camp. Scates is also 6-foot-2 and the word is he can really run.

One surprise during fall camp has been junior college transfer Darren Wilson.

The 6-foot-3 Wilson transferred to Iowa State after one year at Butler Community College. Iowa State under Campbell has had an impressive history with one-year juco players. Ray Lima and Greg Eisworth were also one-year guys before Iowa State signed them. They turned into first-team All-Big 12 players, and while Wilson may not live up to that in his first year, the coaches like what they’re seeing.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Campbell said Wilson is the fastest receiver on the team. That includes Bettendorf’s Darien Porter, who had the fastest time ever by an Iowa high schooler in the 400-meter sprint.

“You know, I haven’t raced (Wilson) yet, so I don’t know if he’s the fastest guy in the receiving room,” joked Scheelhaase, who ran for over 2,000 yards in his career as Illinois’ quarterback. “But he is definitely fast.”

Wilson was ready to spend the full two years in junior college, but his recruitment really picked up in the spring.

“I got my first offer within the first two weeks of spring football at Butler — it was from Buffalo,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t going to take a smaller D-I offer. Then Iowa State came, and they offered me, and they were the first Power 5. It’s always been my dream to play at a Power 5 school, so I accepted the offer.”

Wilson had one other Power 5 offer: West Virginia.

“For him and La’Michael they’re learning how we practice and how we install our offense,” Scheelhaase said. “They’re learning those things and we’re bringing them along the right way. Coach (Tom) Manning has a really good plan of how he’s putting in the offense this fall camp.

“We’ll get those guys ready to go and come Aug. 31, those guys will be ready to play.”

With how young Iowa State’s receivers are — even an older player like Pettway is still getting integrated into a new system and a new school — Jones’ senior leadership has been invaluable.

“It helps having Deshaunte in our group,” Scheelhaase said. “He’s been through it. He’s dealt with adversity – he’s good at keeping an even-keeled perspective throughout a practice and throughout a game and he helps those young guys.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

While Iowa State figures out which receivers will get the ball on third-and-6, it also has to figure out who’s going to get the ball in the red zone.

In the past two years, Butler and Lazard did both. This season, Iowa State doesn’t have a natural big-bodied receiver who’s ready for responsibility. Redshirt freshman receiver Sean Shaw is 6-foot-6 but hasn’t played a down yet.

So, the Cyclones will have to turn to their massive tight ends. Iowa State’s smallest tight end expected to play is redshirt junior Chase Allen, who is 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds. The other two are redshirt sophomore Charlie Kolar (6-foot-6 and 252 pounds) and redshirt junior Dylan Soehner (6-foot-7 and 270 pounds).

Allen and Kolar have both been All-Big 12 tight ends during their careers. Both were second-team All-Big 12 as redshirt freshmen (Allen tore his groin last season).

“Both of those guys have physically matured,” Iowa State tight ends coach Alex Golesh said. “It’s been really, really impressive to see the gains they’ve made in the weight room. They look like grown men now. When Chase played as a redshirt freshman, he looked like a stick figure and when Charlie played last year as a redshirt freshman, he looked like a receiver running around.

“Both of those guys look so confident right now in the run game and in the pass game. The one word for the whole room is just confidence.”

Allen agrees, this is the most confident he has ever felt.

“There’s definitely a difference between real confidence and fake confidence,” Allen said. “I feel like there are a lot of teams out there that are promoting fake confidence. But as a tight end group, when we line up across from guys like JaQuan Bailey every day and have to block him and have to run routes off of Greg Eisworth and if we’re able to succeed against those guys, that gives us real confidence.”

Soehner brings something a little different to the table. While Allen and Kolar are decent blockers, they’re known for their pass-catching ability. Soehner, with his massive size, specializes in blocking. He’ll replace Sam Seonbuchner at the “F” position, which is essentially a full back.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

But the thing Soehner can do better than Seonbuchner is have more position flexablity. Seonbuchner was a one-demensional run blocker, which he was very good at. Soehner can be a run blocker, but he can also flex out wide and be a receiving tight end as well.

“Dylan is the biggest person I’ve ever met in my life,” Allen said. “And the way he moves is incredible. He always keeps our spirits high. In the first play of practice, he was run blocking and he just ran over someone, he trampled some poor kid on the defense. That gets the offense fired up. Then later in practice he did dunk on someone in the end zone, too.”

“They have to show the same thing Allen and Hakeem showed in back-to-back years,” Golesh said. “If the quarterback throws the ball up in the end zone, we have to go get it.”

l Comments: benv43@gmail.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.